The Boston Modern Orchestra Project (BMOP) and Odyssey Opera, two of today’s greatest innovators in the classical music scene, present the New England premiere of the composer’s founding opera X: The Life and Times of Malcolm X (1986) Pulitzer Prize winner Anthony Davis. on June 17, 2022, at the Strand Theatre, a stone’s throw from the house where Malcolm Little lived during his teenage years in Roxbury. This sprawling biographical opera with multiple genres unveils the astonishing life of one of the most misunderstood men in history.
Led by bandleader Gil Rose, this three-act semi-stage production features acclaimed bass-baritone Davóne Tines, Musical America’s 2021 Vocalist of the Year, playing the title role of Malcolm X; mezzo-soprano Ronnita Miller (Ella); soprano Whitney Morrison (Louise/Betty); Boston baritone Joshua Conyers (Reginald); tenor Victor Robertson (Elijah/Street); 14-year-old Framingham singer Jonathan Harris (Malcolm Little); and the full BMOP orchestra with an ensemble of jazz soloists. X marks the first production of BMOP’s five-year performance and recording initiative As Told By: History, Race, and Justice on the Opera Stage, the most comprehensive and ambitious presentation of opera by composers black people to have ever taken place in the United States.
According to Gil Rose, Founder and Artistic Director of BMOP and Odyssey Opera, “It is a pleasure to present X, without doubt one of the great American operas of the 20th century. There is no better way to celebrate contemporary black creativity in Boston and nationally only with the resurrection of a forgotten work composed, written and performed by black artists about black activist and legend Malcolm X, just blocks from home him.”
Likewise, composer Anthony Davis, winner of the 2020 Pulitzer Prize for Music for The Central Park Five, agrees there’s no better time than now and notes that X’s recently completed revisions reflect his updated views. on the opera. “Malcolm X (El Hajj Malik el Shabazz) is an even more relevant character today,” Davis says. “It’s been 35 years since X premiered. Malcom X’s vision is as prescient today as it was in 1986. He is an inspiration to Black Lives Matter and the social justice movement. As a composer, I’m thrilled to help create X as a present-day opera that speaks to the future as well as the past.”
Described by The New York Times as “a compelling and uncompromising work”, X combines Davis’ distinctive score with a libretto by Thulani Davis to depict the galvanic life and career of Malcolm X (1925-1965) in a series of vignettes fast. After the opera’s premiere in 1986, The New Yorker said, “The work is captivating and unlike any other opera…X is a work that deserves to enter the American repertoire…not only a moving and well-crafted work. opera, but whose music adds a new individual voice to those previously heard in our opera houses.”
Unfortunately, the original recording of Davis’ masterpiece is no longer in print. BMOP and Odyssey Opera will be recording X at the Strand Theater over the weekend of June 18-19 for a world premiere recording of the revised edition to be released on BMOP/sound.
In partnership with Castle of Our Skins, a Boston-based black-led chamber music ensemble, Production X also includes an educational program designed to continue conversations about Malcolm X. Last spring, students at the Boston Arts Academy discovered the story and legacy of Malcolm X while creating works to commemorate his life and impact in anticipation of the opera’s New England premiere. Student projects (video works, visual arts, dance performances) will be presented in the lobby of the Strand Theater before, during and after the concert. More details about this free public Malcolm X exhibition, as well as other programs exploring the history and legacy of Malcolm X, will be announced soon.
About As Told By
In 2021, BMOP unveiled a new five-year initiative to elevate opera by black composers. From 2022 to 2026, As Told By: History, Race, and Justice on the Opera Stage presents overlooked repertoire, current masterpieces, and new operas by Black American composers who portray vital figures of Black liberation and black thought through 250 years of history. Supported in part by a grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, As Told By includes New England and world premiere performances of five operas in partnership with Odyssey Opera, plus commercial recordings to be released on the BMOP/sound label. , Grammy Award winner. and complementary education and engagement programs developed by Castle of Our Skins.
Following this summer’s performance of X by Anthony Davis, the 2023 premiere of Harriet Tubman’s full orchestra version of Nkeiru Okoye (libretto by Okoye; first performance 2014). In 2024, Troubled Island by William Grant Still (libretto by Langston Hughes; premiered in 1949), the first opera by a black composer to be performed in a major American opera company, will receive its New England premiere by the BMOP and the Odyssey Opera, as well as a special 75th anniversary performance in New York with BMOP and New York City Opera. Ulysses Kay’s magnum opus Frederick Douglass will premiere in New England in 2025. The series will conclude with the world premiere of a BMOP commission, The Bridge, an opera about the years of Martin Luther King Jr. in Boston, written by a Boston-based composer. Jonathan Bailey Holland.
The Boston Modern Orchestra Project (BMOP) is the first orchestra in the United States dedicated exclusively to the commissioning, performance and recording of 20th and 21st century music. A unique institution of crucial artistic importance to today’s musical world, BMOP exists to disseminate the outstanding orchestral music of the present and recent past through performances and recordings of the highest caliber. Founded by artistic director Gil Rose in 1996, BMOP has championed composers whose careers span nine decades.
Each season, Rose brings the award-winning BMOP Orchestra, renowned soloists and influential composers to the stage of the New England Conservatory’s historic Jordan Hall in a series that offers orchestral programming of unparalleled eclecticism. Musical America’s 2016 Ensemble of the Year, BMOP received Gramophone Magazine’s 2021 Special Achievement Award as “an organization that has championed 20th and 21st century American music with passion and panache.” The musicians of BMOP are consistently praised for the energy, imagination and passion with which they infuse the music of today’s times. For more information, please visit BMOP.org.
About the Opera Odyssey
Founded in 2013 by Artistic Director and Conductor Gil Rose, Odyssey Opera presents adventurous and eclectic works that affirm opera as a powerful expression of the human experience. Its world-class artists perform the operatic repertoire from its historic beginnings through lesser-known masterpieces to new contemporary works and commissions in a variety of formats and venues. Odyssey Opera takes its audience on a journey to places they have never been before. odysseyopera.org